TN: Bob Ross
Janet and I recently celebrated our 37th Wedding Anniversary. Over the years we've devised a variety of templates to celebrate family events -- birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.. The Wedding Anniversary Template involves an exchange of cards, an exchange of small gifts, flowers from me, and dinner for two at a fancy restaurant. It's fun to modify The Wedding Anniversary Template from time to time -- last year in addition to the basic paradigm, I filled the atrium with 600 helium balloons, for example.
This year we followed The Wedding Anniversary Template exactly -- two very nice cards, a tie destined for our joint 60/70 birthday party at Disney World next December, a bouquet (disappoining at the get-go; splendid a day later), and 10 eight-foot quarter rounds. The restaurant was Veritas in Manhattan: the glass vases on the shelves, the flowers, the high ceiling, the comfortable chairs and tables -- the Veritas setting is quite wonderful.
Tables at Veritas are about 12 inches apart. We had a twotop. Roger Ebert and a lady who seemed to be an old friend shared the twotop to my right. Ebert's apparently gained a hundred pounds since I saw him on TV two years ago, and he was loud and outspoken -- waving off a book the lady offered him: "That's something I've known everything about ... for years." Ebert spoke of personalities: Woody Allen, Lorraine Bracco, the Italian political and movie scene, all in a dynamic and loud voice. His companion had a soft questioning voice. They seemed to enjoy their dinner.
Walter Cronkite, Joanna Simon and another lady of a certain age shared the fourtop to my left. [Janna Simon and Cronkite are "keeping company" according to Wikipedia.] Cronkite's sonorous, reassuring voice helped me through a rough patch a little later in the proceedings.
[Its quite usual to be seated next to celebs and near celebs in NYC upscale restaurants. Janet is always careful to ignore them and give them their privacy; I'm always on the lookout for reasons to BS with them -- much to her horror. Usually I strike up a conversation while Janet's in the Ladies and she'll join happily in the conversation on her return. That night she made the necessary visit as we entered the restaurant, and before I could seize on either of the opportunities to talk with the celebs on offer. I suppose it's pretty rude to listen and report on overheard conversations, but then when people speak in loud or sonorous voices 16 inches away from me, how am I to block them out? Aren't we are all on public display in such a setting?]
Janet had read about Veritas's signature Braised Short Ribs and our son David had released a glowing personal review of the dish. Janet chose the roasted asparagus special as a starter to go with the ribs. [Veritas has a fixed price of $76, with only a very few supplementals.] I chose beef as a main course to make the wine choosing easier, and Chef Scott Bryan's lineup for our twotop was as follows:
Smoked salmon with pureed cauliflower
[Absoluely superb, the salmon very fresh and lightly salted, delicately smoked and with firm fine grains, the cauliflower elegant with hints of Northern India.]
Wild Mushroom Ravioli
mascarpone, tarragon and hon-shimeji mushrooms
[Superb -- the essence of forest floor.]
hon-shimeji mushrooms in a white sauce
[Superb asparagus and mushrooms, a little heavy on the sauce.]
Tender Braised Short-Ribs
parsnip purée, porcini mushrooms, glazed carrots & barolo
[Delicious vegetables and mushrooms, and half the boneless ribs were falling apart good, the other half were overcooked and just a bit burned. The Veritas staff couldn't have been nicer about offering a substitute, but Janet was content with the properly cooked half. (Neither of us would recommend this signature dish to others.)]
Grilled Dry Aged Rib-Eye Steak
haricots verts and red wine jus
(Excellent beans and quite a nice rib eye, which might have been trimmed a bit better, but the center portion was beautifully cooked and delicious.)
The wine? Ah, the wine.
The Veritas wine list is massive, printed on double sided parchment in a multipage book, which makes fascinating reading for a wine geek. It's worth checking out the website; the whole list is online there, and you are encouraged to call ahead and order your wine if you would like it decanted. You can also buy a copy of the parchment list for $70; allow two weeks for delivery. I particularly liked the description in the front matter of how the wine list was put together: "Veritas is all about having a great time with food and wine. We hope the wines in this book will help you do that."
We found a number of Turleys on offer, one of Janet's favorite producers. Janet was intrigued, searched the rest of the list, especially for the one Burgundy she's ever really enjoyed, a 1990 Domain Ponsot Griotte Chambertine, unfortunately available only in magnum at $880.
Instead, Janet chose:
Turley 1996 Black Sears $345 (1*)
Tim Kopec is the Wine Director at Veritas. Tim showed me the wine bottle, I asked Janet to look at it, she nodded, Tim went off and returned with the empty bottle and the cork which he placed on a little silver tray. The wine was in a beautiful clear decanter, deep red and glistening, and Tim poured a bit into a beautiful Riedel glass. He offered it to me, I passed it over to Janet.
Janet smelled, Janet sipped, Janet frowned. My heart sank. I took the glass and sniffed. Cardboard. "No fruit" said Janet. "Corked" said I. "No, just no fruit", said Janet. Tim took the decanter away and said, "Let me taste it in the back." He returned in a couple of minutes: "Well, it's not corked, but there's something wrong with this wine -- there should be more fruit -- it's out of balance." Janet said: "It's not corked, but it should have more fruit. It's over the hill."
That wine was corked. I could smell the cardboard. My blood pressure rose. "Well, maybe I'm overly sensitive to TCA, but there's cardboard here." Tim: "We want you to be happy. I'm very sensitive to cork as well. Let's try another bottle so you'll enjoy your evening." Janet: "It's over the hill Bob -- it's not corked."
But, but ... what about the cardboard? ... and then I heard Cronkite's voice -- calm, soothing, "They had six flavors of ice cream ... don't you remember. No cones ... they weren't on the menu ... but they had cones too." And the lady who wasn't Joanna Simon said "We had to sleep on the floor that night, don't you remember Walter." I could remember the cardboard smell ... but I also remembered the Cuban missiles and that same calm voice from so long ago -- and relaxed. Somehow it no longer mattered that neither Tim nor Janet thought the Turley was corked.
Tim returned with another bottle of:
Turley 1996 Black Sears $345 (1*)
This time Tim showed the bottle to Janet, she nodded, Tim opened the bottle, Tim decanted the bottle somewhere out of sight, Tim returned, and poured an inch in each of our glasses. Janet sipped and frowned. I picked up my glass. I sniffed from a foot away. I put it down. "This wine is corked," I said. Janet said: "It's not corked, but there isn't any fruit." Tim sniffed my glass. "It isn't corked, but it's badly out of balance -- it's acidic -- there's no fruit -- there's something seriously wrong with this bottle too. But it's not corked." My blood pressure rose again, and then I heard Cronkite's voice: "Strawberry. Vanilla of course. And Cherry. I remember cherry."
I remembered a terrible day in November long ago and that same soothing voice. "It's corked" I muttered to myself, but my blood pressure subsided as Cronkite rumbled on.
Janet and Tim decided on a replacement wine, Tim opining that people thought the Jackass Hill was superior to the Jackass, and he believed the younger vintage would have more life:
Martinelli 1999 Jackass Hill Russian River $220 (3*)
The Jackass Hill smelled pretty good -- although after you've smelled two corked wines, I'm not so sure when that your sense of smell recovers. Janet said she was embarrassed to refuse two bottles of wine. Tim said it wasn't our fault, the wine was flawed, we shouldn't be upset, he wanted us to enjoy the evening. Janet made Tim laugh with sympathy as she described three corked 1982 Bordeaux we had opened from our own cellar in honor of a friend's birthday three years ago.
We didn't enjoy the Jackass Hill as much as I thought we should -- the fruit seemed a bit subdued. Janet didn't finish hers, and I didn't finish mine. But that wonderful Cronkite voice rolled on in the background -- everything would be all right so long as he kept talking, even if the Jackass Hill wasn't up to expectation. Janet and I chatted about everything and nothing at all; she was particularly pleased that Ted and I had painted the quarter round while she got dressed for dinner. Janet looked enchanting that night. Cronkite's voice was nice -- but listening to Janet was so much nicer. Who cared about the Jackass Hill?
The Roger Ebert party left. They played the New York City game -- Whose Credit Card Pays? Ebert moved first (an AmEx Business Green), the lady moved second (an AmEx Business Gold). The lady handed Ebert's card to him. Ebert took it and threw it back into play. They smiled at each other. Stalemate!
The lady checked to see how much Ebert was tipping before she filled out her credit slip, then checked again after he totaled his slip. Was she weak in math? Did she want to be sure she didn't overtip and embarrass Ebert? The joys of people watching. :-)
I watched the lady who wasn't Joanna Simon enjoy her dessert. Janet and I studied the dessert menu. Walter Cronkite and Joanna Simon got up to leave, and I pulled the table back so the lady who wasn't Joanna Simon could get off the banquette she shared with Janet. The lady thanked me, and I asked her how she like the Lemon Meringue Tart. "It was delicious", she said, "light as a feather with a little crunch at the end, and a hint of lemon all the way through." "Good," I said, "We'll order one."
She must have been a journalist: "How do you know it's good? You don't know me," she said. "Ah", I said, "but I watched you eat every last bite, and then you rubbed your fork over the plate to get all the flavor." The lady who wasn't Joanna Simon smiled at me, and she wished me good night.
The Pastry Chef at Veritas is Dalia Jurgensen. For dessert Janet and I had:
Warm Apple Tarte Tatin
vanilla ice cream, macadamia nut brittle and butter rum sauce
[Lovely apples nicely under cooked, crisp chewy brittle, a marvelous sauce, all melded together into a delightful concoction, accompanied by a tiny Krumb Krakken cookie, or at least that's what my Norwegian mother called that type of cookie.]
Lemon Meringue Tart
Graham cracker crust
Green tea puree
[Light as a feather, a little graham cracker crunch at the end, Meyer lemon hints cascading. Just as the lady who wasn't Joanna Simon promised.]
Janet had a Cappauchino and we each sipped the dessert wines recommended by Tim Kopec:
Burge Family, Vintage Port, Barossa, Australia 2003 (4*)
[Smooth as velvet. "Velvet trousers", I thought, but that's Burgundy, isn't it?]
Brisebarre Vouvray Mouelleux Loire France 1989 (4*+)
[Flinty, limestone, honey sweet, lovely long finish.]
Our waiter delivered a plate carrying six lovely little cookies, two each of three different kinds. Janet and I shared one of each -- delicious little things. We asked for a "cookie bag" to take the remaining three cookies for Ted, our friend who was driving us. Veritas's staff delivered a bag filled with a dozen more cookies.
Ted was delighted with the food from Veritas. He reported that he liked the warmed over rib eye steak, but he said he devoured those 15 cookies "with great joy".
Madeline (she asked me not to use her last name in this report) who works in the coat check room, said: "I've been here for over a year. 98% of our guests enjoy their visits. They almost always plan to come back."
And so shall we.
Note: I've sent copies of this tasting note to Walter Cronkite and to Roger Ebert at their websites, and to Veritas by email. I'll update the note if there are any interesting or amusing responses.
Walter Cronkite Personal Blog -- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/walter-cronkite/
RogerEbert.com -- http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage
Veritas -- http://www.veritas-nyc.com/
For the "keeping company" quote, see Wikipedia -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Cronkite
And although she plays only an incidental role in this tasting note, if you are interested in an upscale New York City apartment, check with Joanna Simon -- http://www.foxresidential.com/prof_deta ... broker=246